Expansion movement continues as San Diego County joins growing list of West Coast clubs
NEW YORK (June 26, 2017) – Professional soccer is making its long-awaited return to San Diego County. The North American Soccer League (NASL) announced Monday that San Diego County is the league’s newest expansion market, and the club will make its league debut in the Spring of 2018.
San Diego NASL is backed by an ownership group led by four global soccer stars: Demba Ba, Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sow. The players have partnered with local business executives to bring high-quality, professional soccer back to an area that is home to 3.3 million people and more than 50,000 youth players. Bob Watkins, a longtime San Diegan and successful businessman, will serve as the club’s president.
"It’s an absolute honor to bring professional soccer to San Diego County," said Watkins, who recently secured the league’s approval of the expansion club. "The international soccer stars driving this effort give us an excellent foundation from which to build. We will be an exciting club to watch - you can count on that. We intend to develop local talent, helping young children realize their dreams of playing professional soccer, and we intend to help San Diego become a soccer capital known around the world."
With Ba, Hazard, Cabaye and Sow headlining the ownership group, the club will have a deep connection to the global game. Ba and Sow were both born in France, but represent Senegal at the international level. Ba, who currently plays for Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League, has been a prolific goalscorer in France, Germany, England and Turkey.
“Success is our goal – with the club, with the community, with everything that we do,” Ba said. “One of our goals is to sign players who have a strong passion for the game, who are competitive and love to win. All my life as a football player, I lived with competition and competition is going to be good for us and for San Diego. I look forward to competing against our fellow California clubs and the rest of the NASL, as well as MLS clubs in the U.S. Open Cup. It is going to be up to us to be the best.”
Hazard, who is widely regarded as one of the world’s most talented players, plays for Premier League side Chelsea FC, where he and Ba were once teammates. The Belgian international star was named Premier League Player of the Season in 2015.
“San Diego is a beautiful place and the love and passion the people have for soccer made this an easy choice for us,” Hazard said. “My friends and I are honored to turn this dream into a reality and we can’t wait to get started and win some games.”
Like Hazard, Cabaye plays professionally in England with Crystal Palace FC. A member of the French national team, Cabaye has played for well-known clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Newcastle United. “It’s unbelievable to be part of this project, and I just want to do my best for the club and for San Diego,” Cabaye said.
Sow just finished another season with Turkish giant Fenerbahçe S.K., on loan from Dubai-based side Al Ahli. “My main goal will be to share my knowledge and experience with the club,” Sow said.
“The NASL is thrilled to add San Diego to the league, and we’re just as excited to be doing so with such an accomplished group of professional players and businessmen,” NASL Interim Commissioner Rishi Sehgal said. “We’re confident that the success they have had on the pitch in their careers will contribute to the club’s success – on and off the pitch – in San Diego.”
The club is in the process of scouting locations in North County to build a privately-financed soccer complex that will include its home stadium. It will play its games at the University of San Diego until the stadium is complete.
Joining the club’s front office will be Ricardo Campos and Katy Temple. Campos formerly served as technical director for the New York Red Bulls of MLS. Temple is an experienced media personality and communications professional in San Diego.
“My focus will be to create a team that San Diegans are proud to call their own, with players and staff who are hard-working, creative and instinctively smart,” Campos said. “We will put together a staff that focuses on building our players, on and off the field, and creating an environment that strives for continuous personal development.”
Temple said: “San Diego is home to one of the country’s best youth soccer programs, but very few local players go on to play professional soccer and even fewer reach their dreams of playing internationally. The ownership group plans to change that by developing players and coaches and turning the region into a soccer capital. The global soccer stars behind San Diego NASL have achieved their boyhood dreams and they want to provide young players in San Diego with the same opportunities.”
Sehgal added: “The plans that Demba, Eden and the rest of the ownership group have in store for the development of their club align well with the vision of the NASL because they will apply vast global experience to the local community in San Diego. The NASL celebrates the global game by focusing on players and delivering a high-quality soccer experience to the fans, and this group intends to do just that.”
San Diego NASL is currently developing its name and logo, and expects to unveil its branding at an event in the coming months. The club has already launched SanDiegoNASL.com, which includes an FAQ page and a launch video, as well as social media pages on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
As the NASL’s 10th club, San Diego is the latest to join the league’s West Coast expansion movement. The San Francisco Deltas kicked off their inaugural seasonearlier this year, and a new club in Orange County, which will take the field in the Spring of 2018, was announced last month.
Currently in the midst of its 2017 season, the NASL is available on a weekly basis through its national broadcast partnerships with beIN SPORTS and ESPN. For broadcast listings or general information on the league, visit NASL.com.
Neal Malone, NASL, firstname.lastname@example.org
Katy Temple, San Diego NASL, email@example.com
Tony Manolatos, San Diego NASL, firstname.lastname@example.org
The North American Soccer League is a professional soccer league established in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. For more information on the NASL, visit www.NASL.com. Follow the NASL on Twitter and Instagram at @NASLOfficial and Facebook at Facebook.com/NASLFanPage.